Finally, I've updated! Sorry about the long wait....

I'm gonna do the author's notes up here this time:

(1) Start listening to Sephiroth's theme (the one from KH2) right here! I think I timed the writing pretty well, but it all depends on how fast you read...

Aw, darn it! That's a HUGE spoiler right there! Oh're still gonna read it, right?

Reviews appreciated! :D

P.S. If you don't notice by the end of this chapter: I suck at writing fight scenes. So...don't judge me too harshly.

Oh, and to all you flamers out there (however many there may be, if none at all)....

I know I suck at writing action-y stuff. Don't leave a bogus review to tell me stuff like that.

But to everyone else...happy reading!! XD

Takara glanced at the assembly of thirteen men that sat around her, their eyes cold as steel. These people made up the Council of Radiant Garden, the governing system in this world. It was the closest thing that political officials could come up with since their last ruler, Ansem the Wise, had died. Takara winced, an expression of pain distorting her beautiful features as she recalled the memory of the kind old man.

What a shame, to have to die in the place of evil...

"Princess, may I say that I am so overjoyed to have you home." The cold, unfeeling voice that reached Takara's ears made her groan internally. She knew this Council member all too well.

"I am happy to hear that, Lucius. I trust that you and the rest of the Council are in good health as well."

Lucius nodded his head once in acknowledgement, and continued on with the proceedings.

"Your Highness, we have called this Council meeting in order to discuss the pressing issue of the Heartless that overwhelm this city. Before this world was restored to its original state, the Heartless problem was surprisingly less. But now, the number of these monsters is simply overwhelming. There are not enough warriors to defeat them all, and we need to find solutions. I hereby declare, with Your Highness's permission, of course," Lucius turned his head to the Princess in recognition, "to come up with solutions as to how to solve this unfortunate predicament."

Takara sighed angrily, too quiet for anyone to hear. "Unfortunate predicament?" People were losing their hearts, family members...people they loved...and he called this unfortunate?

I'm surprised you're not a Heartless yet, Lucius.

Takara bowed her head once, her voice remaining authoritative. "You may proceed. I hereby declare this for suggestions."

One Council member raised his hand, and stood up, his head held high in the air. "I suggest that we recruit an army to defeat the Heartless. Or at least come up with a group that can annihilate them."

Another Council member stood up to argue, his eyebrows knitted together. "You know what happened with that ten years ago! Do you suggest we lose another set of Keybearers? You're idiotic!"

"What about sending out an army of Nobodies?"

"How about striking a deal with that witch, Maleficent?"

"Send the Keybearers out there! They'll take care of it!"

"I suggest we send the Princess herself. She can control Heartless anyway. What better to use her against them?"

"What about--"

"ENOUGH, GENTLEMEN!" A deadly silence filled the air; not one person spoke for fear of being shut down by the Princess's demanding voice.

Takara was now on her feet, her whole body trembling with rage, and her hands clenched into fists at her sides. All the Keybearers, Riku especially, watched Takara with a certain kind of wonder and fear. Their weapons were still at their sides, and they watched her every move, ready to follow her for anything.

Takara took a deep breath before speaking through clenched teeth. "I can see that yelling out pointless and idiotic solutions isn't going to solve this problem. This 'unfortunate predicament' you speak of, Lucius, is more than what you think it is. People are dying, and all you dimwits can do is sit here and argue about it. Well, I am not just going to sit here like some stupid moron and watch my people die. I'm going to go fight for them, and not one of you is going to stop me! Does anyone have any further objections?"

By this time, Takara's voice had grown a little quieter, and she looked around the room with eyes that made Riku's breath catch in his throat and an involuntary shiver go up his spine.

"No? Then this meeting is adjourned! Everyone out!" Takara sank to her knees in frustration, burying her head in her hands. Riku made a move to help her, but King Mickey reached a hand up and shook his head.

"No. She needs time, as little there may be, to think."

Riku nodded once and resumed his original position. Sora held an outraged yet sympathetic looking Kairi in his arms; he conveyed a look of sadness on his face as well. Goofy and Donald looked at the young princess uncertainly, and averted their eyes from her trembling figure.

Finally, Riku pushed his way past King Mickey's outstretched hand and walked up the white marble steps to the girl. He knelt down, placed a hand on her shoulder, and whispered softly so only both of them could hear.

"Takara, it'll be all right, I promise. We'll find a way."

She looked up at him with glassy eyes and an expression that made Riku's heart want to break. "How do you know? How do you know this isn't some failed attempt that will end up getting you killed? I have no solution, don't you see? People will keep dying because of me! I don't even think Ansem would have let it get this far..."

"I know who's doing this." A voice resonated throughout the room; everyone whirled around to find the source.

One man stood with his back against a column, his arms crossed on his chest, head down. His blond, spiky hair hung in front of his face and his ice blue eyes had completely frozen solid.

Takara stood up slowly, letting Riku's hand slide off of her shoulder. "Please tell us...Cloud."

"It's Sephiroth."

Takara drew her breath in sharply and closed her eyes. She clenched her right hand into a fist, it soon glowed with a bright light, and seconds later, that light was replaced by her Keyblade. Her butterscotch eyes were no longer that same color...

They were black.

"It's time to end this," she whispered.

Only Riku, Cloud and Takara journeyed to the Dark Depths; everyone else had stayed at the castle.

The group now stood on the ledge overlooking the ruined castle of Radiant Garden. Takara stepped forward, her auburn hair blowing around her face in the unexpected breeze. The sun was just beginning to set, the light from its rays reflecting off the waters of the Rising Falls.

"You have returned, Princess Takara."

The aforementioned girl spun around sharply, her eyes narrowed. Her Keyblade once again materialized in her hand as she glared at Sephiroth, the one-winged angel.

"Only to find my world torn apart and ravaged by the dark. What is it you seek?"

Sephiroth raised one hand and pointed a finger directly at her. "Your heart."

Out of the corner of her eye, Takara could see Riku summon his Keyblade, his body tensed to lunge at Sephiroth. His green eyes were hidden beneath his silver hair, a furious expression of anger graced his features.

Riku's next words were harsh and cold. "You won't touch her."

Sephiroth turned to the sixteen-year old wielder of twilight, a smirk on his lips.

"And what makes you think you're going to be the one to stop me? I have more power than both you and pitiful Cloud over there combined. Maleficent wouldn't know what to do with that girl's power. It's time I take matters into my own hands, right, Princess?"

A sharp clicking sound reached everyone's ears: Takara had loaded both of her guns and aimed them straight at Sephiroth. She stood, unmoving, her face expressionless.

"I would rather die than fall into the hands of any of you."

Sephiroth's smirk grew wider. "As you wish."

He raised his long silver sword into the air, floated gracefully up towards the sky and lunged at Takara.

She smiled, took a deep breath...

and closed her eyes. (1)

A dark portal appeared from behind her, and the Princess vanished.

Sephiroth froze for the tiniest fraction of a second, a flicker of surprise crossing his face.

That fraction of a second was all Takara needed.

She reappeared behind Sephiroth, through another dark portal, Keyblade in hand. Raising the weapon above her head, she slashed at Sephiroth wildly, cutting at his arms and torso.

With another powerful swing, Takara sent Sephiroth flying toward Cloud.

The blond-headed warrior nodded once at the girl, and Takara smiled.

It was his turn.

Cloud was the most powerful warrior Takara had ever seen; with his large bandaged sword, he swiped through ten Heartless with ease. He was quiet and contemplative, he studied his opponents before ever going into battle.

And he was strong enough to defeat the embodiment of the darkness in his heart.

Cloud raised his weapon to his side, jumped into the air and let out a war cry as he struck Sephiroth again and again.

Sephiroth countered a couple of times, pushing Cloud back towards the edge of the cliff, but Riku was always there, shooting a few Dark Auras to push Sephiroth back as well.

Takara snapped her fingers again, summoning about thirty-five Neoshadows and sending them off to fight Sephiroth.

It was a distraction, however small it was, to give Takara a chance to jump into the air, point her Keyblade above her head, and send herself spiraling towards Sephiroth.

It was a perfectly timed's just that Sephiroth saw it coming.

In a matter of exactly two seconds, the one-winged angel had unleashed a large orb of dark energy flying towards both Riku and Cloud, knocking them to the ground. Cloud's sword landed a few feet away from him, and Riku's Keyblade stayed in his hand.

Seeing this, Takara gasped, momentarily stunned at the defeat that had befallen her friends. "Cloud! Ri--!"

Takara's shouts were cut off by a hand encircling her neck, squeezing it tight.

She looked up, terrified into the cold eyes of Sephiroth. He held her tighter, cutting off her air supply.

Sephiroth leaned closer to the girl, who was struggling and clawing at the evil man's hands, trying to break free.

He smiled and whispered five words.

"Can you spare a heart?"

Sephiroth raised his sword, aimed it directly at the girl's chest and laughed.

Takara cringed, closing her eyes to block out the image of the frightening weapon coming towards her.

Riku's eyes widened in fear; that was the same thing Xemnas had said to Sora in the World that Never Was, right before he had tried to kill him.

Riku wasn't about to let that happen to Takara. Not to her.

"NO!" Riku launched himself up from the ground in one fluid motion, his Keyblade down by his side.

Takara watched him with fearful eyes: he wasn't about to do something stupid, was he?

In one final second, Sephiroth squeezed Takara's neck even tighter and grabbed her right arm, pulled it behind her back, and twisted it—breaking all the bones contained within.

Takara let out a painful cry of agony, letting her eyes droop closed, her body shielding her from the unwanted pain.

Riku was suddenly there, slashing at Sephiroth with all his might, causing him to release the girl in his arms. She plummeted towards the ground, unconscious.

Riku watched with horror as Takara fell toward the ground. She was just about to hit the ground when Sora ran up to the battle, an equally same expression of terror on his face.

"What's going—Takara!"

Suddenly, a purplish blast of light emanated from Riku's Keyblade, surrounding Takara in its light. It encased her body, stopping her fall. She floated gracefully down to the ground, and laid there, unmoving.

"What...?" Riku whispered.

Riku landed firmly on both of his feet, dismissing his Keyblade, rushing over to Takara. He could hear the far off shouts of Sora and Cloud, finishing off Sephiroth. He didn't care.

All he cared about was the unconscious girl in front of him.

"Takara! Wake up! Open your eyes!" Riku cradled her in his arms, her head resting against his chest. Her body being so close to his made him shiver, but he had no time to think about that now.

A wave of pain shot through his body as he realized he was wounded too, but that wasn't the only reason.

About a year ago, that was the same thing that Sora had said to Kairi when she had lost her heart in this very same world.

But he shook those thoughts out of his head: that was impossible, right?

"Mmm...what?" Riku could suddenly see the familiar butterscotch color of Takara's eyes, and she breathed deeply as she regained consciousness.

Her eyes widened as she realized where she was: in Riku's arms.


He smirked; her voice sounded like that of someone who was pleased but a little frightened.


"What just happened?"

Takara didn't receive a verbal answer; rather, Riku's arms wrapped around her tightly, holding her even closer to him. One hand reached up to cradle her head, and Riku stroked her hair.

"I thought you were going to die," he whispered. "I thought I wouldn't be able to save you."

Takara remained speechless, her heart beating faster than she had ever heard it before. She finally came out of her shocked state, only to realize that a searing pain was shooting through her arm, unwilling to let her mind concentrate on anything else. "Ow, arm, arm, arm!"

Riku let go of her quickly, an alarmed look in his eyes. "Sorry," he mumbled. "Heal." A green light emanated from his fingertips, magic swirling around her arm. The break was healed, but there were still remnants of pain.

"Thank you," she whispered. Takara suddenly felt herself being lifted up into the air, still cradled in Riku's arms.

"Wha—what are you doing?"

"I'm taking you to Aerith. She's a much better healer than I am, anyway."

She narrowed her eyes. "I can still walk!"

Riku smirked again. "I think I'll be the judge of that." His arms tightened around the wounded girl, much to her dismay.

Takara finally gave in, and snuggled closer to Riku's chest. He froze for about a tenth of a second, his steps faltering.

Takara could only smile.